Bumper crop! Our community has several gardens, an orchard, and a vineyard, and every year
seems to have a harvest highlight. So far this has been the year of the cucumber. After serving
cucumber salad in numerous forms, and making at least two multiple batches of sweet
refrigerator pickles, I have to admit that I sighed when I saw the next tub of cucumbers arrive in our kitchen. Garden bumper crops are faith building but can offer a challenge for speedy
processing and creative recipes. One year it was plums, and we saw plum pork, plum sauce,
plum butter, plum muffins, plum cakes, and frozen plums in the freezer for quite some time.
We found ourselves praying for a peach!
But this year – it’s the cucumber! Someone mentioned refrigerator dill pickles, and although I
was initially daunted by the idea, I found myself researching several different recipes and quite taken by lovely images on the internet of homemade dill pickles. With the beautiful ingredients in this recipe, you’ll end up with colorful jars of refrigerator pickles to give as gifts, or to keep on hand for eating. Once opened and served, expect them to disappear quickly! This recipe also can be multiplied out easily. (I made two gallons of pickles.) However, if multiplying, do use less garlic.
Rumor has it that this will also be our year for the apple. The initial drops and first fruits have already started to roll in….stay tuned.
- Combine the vinegar, salt, and sugar in a stainless steel or Teflon pan over high heat. Whisk until the salt and sugar are dissolved.
- Transfer the liquid into a bowl and whisk in the cold water. Refrigerate brine until it has cooled enough to add to the cucumbers (approx. 30 minutes).
- While brine is cooling, place cucumbers into two clean 1-quart jars, leaving a little room to add the dill and spices.
- Then, when brine is cooled, add the coriander seeds, garlic cloves, mustard seeds, red pepper flakes, dill sprigs, and chilled brine into jars, dividing evenly.
- This is the fun part, as the finished product looks lovely! If necessary, add a bit of cold water until the brine covers the cucumbers.
- Cover and refrigerate about 24 hours, then serve. Cucumbers will keep in the refrigerator for up to one month.
On Tuesday mornings, at the break of dawn, all of the Sisters, Novices and Postulants divide and conquer the larger vegetable gardens in our community. That’s about 30 of us in each garden, with a small team of older sisters staying behind to make breakfast. In one hour, we are astounded at how much gets done – hauling off wheel barrows full of weeds to the compost pile and bringing in tubs of fresh veggies for the week ahead. The older Sisters teach the younger ones about suckering tomatoes and the younger ones have the strong backs to dig and till. Stories are told about the early days, and new ones are made – it’s Sisterhood life at its best.
This week, we got a bumper crop of Japanese cucumbers in – thin, long and crunchy –a welcome sight after a long winter of frozen vegetables! With the volume of cukes coming in, we opted to make our favorite sweet pickles. For many years, we have been making this special recipe and giving them as gifts at Christmastime. Now we are about to let you in on a big secret recipe that has stayed within the walls of our Convent for over 30 years. Enjoy and Happy Gardening!
“Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.” – Rabbi Abraham Heschel
The Convent’s Famous Bread and Butter Pickles
- Thinly slice the onions and cucumbers. Chop the peppers (if adding).
- Combine cucumbers, onions, peppers and salt in a large bowl and cover with cracked ice. Mix thoroughly and allow to sit at room temperature for 3 hrs. or until the ice melts. Drain thoroughly but do not rinse.
- Combine the remaining ingredients in a large pot and heat just until boiling.
- Add the Cucumber and onion mixture and cook just a bit.
- Sterilize 5 quart size jars in boiling water.
- Add the pickles to the jar, followed by the juice. You may not need all the juice you have.
- Seal jars and process in a water bath.
I am a cold weather girl. Yesterday was one of those crisp fall days, and I was actually cold! It’s a promise of things to come — apples being picked and pumpkins rolling in — so I do look forward to it. I love autumn! This year we have a bumper crop of pears. Last year was plum year — we had hundreds of pounds of the purple beauties. I don’t think we have as many pears, but it is a respectable harvest, enough that one starts wondering how many pears a person can eat? I love pears off of the tree, and I love to make upside cakes, poached pears, and pear muffins…. I also love chutney, so I decided to make up a few jars of a fiery pear one. Perfect for pork, or ham, turkey or chicken. Great in a ham and cheese sandwich on the griddle, or in the oven. But be warned — this one has a kick!
- Cook the pears in enough water to cover until they are medium soft.
- Drain, saving the water, then make a syrup of the water in which the pears were cooked and the brown sugar by boiling in a large nonreactive pot until thick, about 20 to 30 minutes.
- While the syrup is boiling, add the remaining ingredients to the pears, then mix everything together and cook for about 30 minutes or until the raisins are softened, the onions are transparent, and the chutney has a good thick consistency.
- Transfer to sterilized jars and seal, process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, or store in refrigerator.
- (Quatre – Epices: equal amounts of white pepper, nutmeg, ground cloves and ground ginger. Cinnamon can also be added, but for this recipe I left it out.